1 month ago

ADCNR named Agency of Year at Sportsmen’s Caucus Summit

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources recently received special recognition by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation with the presentation of the State Agency of the Year Award at the 16th Annual National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Sportsman-Legislator Summit in Greensboro, Georgia.

“The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is honored to recognize the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) as the State Agency of the Year,” said Jeff Crane, CSF President. “The DCNR has been a consistent supporter of CSF, NASC, and the Alabama Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and, through this support, the Caucus in Alabama has grown tremendously to become a strong and effective voice for sportsmen and women. CSF thanks Commissioner Chris Blankenship, Deputy Commissioner Ed Poolos, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director Chuck Sykes for their continued support and steadfast dedication to Alabama’s vast natural resources.”

Hosted by the CSF, this year’s Summit brought together 50 legislators and leaders from state fish and wildlife agencies to discuss the theme “Partners Advancing America’s Conservation Movement: NASC, Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Industry and NGOs.” Topics discussed included promoting hunting and fishing, boating access, chronic wasting disease (CWD), the spread of invasive Asian carp and a variety of other issues affecting sportsmen and women.

“This is the largest gathering of pro-sportsmen legislators who come together to discuss issues that are of great importance to our hunting and angling traditions,” Crane said. “The 16th Annual NASC Summit was successful in that it brought together our bipartisan caucus leaders and members, fish and wildlife agency leaders, NGO (non-governmental organizations) representatives, and leading industry partners to focus on how to advance opportunities for sportsmen and women and to ensure sound, science-driven conservation policies are enacted.”

DCNR Commissioner Chris Blankenship said he was elated that the Department was awarded the CSF’s State Agency of the Year.

“We were very happy that we were recognized for multiple initiatives by the Department,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “The Foundation noted several reasons for the recognition, starting with Marine Resources Division Director Scott Bannon and all the work that has been done with red snapper. Alabama has been the leader in securing the state management of red snapper. The work we did in Congress helped inform the legislators on the issues on the Gulf Coast with the short seasons. We were able to work with the congressional delegations in Washington to implement the exempted fishing program (EFP) for the past two years and then win approval of management for the long-term.”

The EFP was in effect for the 2018 and 2019 red snapper seasons. Each of the Gulf states was given a snapper allocation, and each state managed its allocation.

Alabama’s quota was slightly more than a million pounds of red snapper in each of the two years of the EFP. The timely data from the mandatory Alabama Snapper Check program allowed Marine Resources to manage to the quota each year.

This year the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council passed regional management of red snapper. That amendment is awaiting the signature of the Secretary of Commerce and will go into effect for 2020 and beyond.

“The Foundation also recognized the work that Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Director Chuck Sykes is doing with Senator (Doug) Jones (D-Alabama) and Senator (Cindy) Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) concerning funding for CWD research as well as the work Chuck is doing as the president of SEAFWA (Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies) on a myriad of hunting and fishing initiatives,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “We have also worked with Senator (Richard) Shelby (R-Alabama) and, to a lesser extent, Senator (Lamar) Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Senator (Mitch) McConnell (R-Kentucky) on Asian carp issues. We want to reduce Asian carp populations in Tennessee and Kentucky rivers and keep them contained in the rivers upstream that flow into Alabama.”

WFF’s Sykes said a great deal of the recognition from the CSF was due to Alabama’s willingness to meet and discuss the issues that are facing the nation’s sportsmen and women.

“The Department has allowed me to come to the CSF’s Summits to share a variety of programs we are doing,” said Sykes, who also serves on the executive committee of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “I’ve spoken at three of the last four events. The hunting and fishing days that the Department has promoted were mentioned as well as our CWD response plan and major educational campaign. The Foundation said they appreciated the time I had taken to come and participate in roundtable discussions with legislators around the country on important issues, from funding to our R3 efforts.”

The R3 effort stands for recruitment, retention and reactivation. Those R3 activities try to recruit new participants or increase participation rates of current or lapsed outdoor enthusiasts.

Sykes also said the Foundation recognized the contributions of the WFF’s Special Opportunity Area (SOA) and adult mentored hunting programs, programs in the Alabama Black Belt and the promotion of the Alabama Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Day annually to help educate legislators on outdoors issues and improve Caucus participation and increase Caucus membership.

“Our legislators were happy to see the Department recognized,” Sykes said.

Commissioner Blankenship said the State Lands Division, under Director Patti McCurdy, contributed through its efforts to expand public boating access in Alabama. McCurdy has worked with the staffs in D.C. to continue to promote recreational access funding in Coastal Alabama. Through several funding sources, improvements to boating and angling access are planned for Bayou La Batre, Dauphin Island, the Intracoastal Waterway in Baldwin County, and the Middleton Causeway site on Battleship Parkway at the north end of Mobile Bay, Foley and Daphne.

Commissioner Blankenship also cited the work of Bee Frederick, who was the CSF’s representative in Alabama until recently, for holding annual events in Montgomery to promote the Alabama Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus.

“Bee was very helpful in getting the legislators more involved in hunting and fishing issues and helping us provide the scientific and management information to make informed decisions,” Commissioner Blankenship said. “The Caucus’ legislative agenda has been very helpful for the Department and people who hunt and fish in Alabama. The award highlights the work we do in Washington and in Montgomery with the Alabama Legislature. I think those relationships we built in Washington and here at the State House are very valuable when issues come up that affect sportsmen and women. We can pick up the phone and discuss the issues with the legislators or their staff. I think we have built a great amount of trust that we will provide them with balanced information so they can make good decisions.”

Other than naming the Alabama DCNR as State Agency of the Year, the CSF handed out several other awards at the Georgia Summit.

The Friends of NASC Award went to Shimano American Corp. and Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever.

NASC Heritage Awards were presented to Rep. David Wilson (CT), Sen. Mike Bell (TN), Sen. Mark Allen (OK), and Rep. Casey Snider (UT).

During the Summit, CSF announced the signing of a partnership with Birmingham-based B.A.S.S. to further conservation efforts. Safari Club International (SCI) was also recognized for its long-standing financial support of NASC and the annual summit.

Founded in 1989, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation was formed to work with Congress, governors, and state legislatures to protect and advance hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping.

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

57 mins ago

Animal welfare and economics

Dog owners in Canberra, Australia, must now walk their companions daily or face a $2,700 fine, due to a 2019 animal welfare law recognizing dogs as sentient beings. Does requiring the humane treatment of animals restrict the property rights of humans and the functioning of economies?

I will not let rain, sleet, snow or dark of night deter me from walking my dogs. Dogs’ unbridled enthusiasm for a walk is so marvelous that I never want to let them down. I will confess, though, that I’ve violated Canberra’s new law.

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Political philosophers’ theories of rights describe how humans should treat each other. Humans have the capacity for rational, deliberative action. Furthermore, political rights establish the conditions for the exercise of our rational capacities. Although beyond my professional expertise, based on my understanding, I would be reluctant to say that animals have rights.

Nonetheless, I think animals should be treated humanely and ethically, even though people disagree about what exactly constitutes humane treatment. And standards for humane treatment have changed over time. In the 1800s, owners could beat horses or mules for failing to do work.

Some critics dismiss animal rights when proponents do not extend rights to insects. An advocate willing to swat mosquitos rejects what critics see as the logical extension of animal rights. I think humans can hold ourselves to whatever standards of treatment we want. We can have inconsistent standards across species and decide to treat cute animals better. And we need not compromise our health and safety; we can, for instance, spray mosquitos.

The most relevant animal treatment issues today involve hunting and eating meat. My personal opinion here is irrelevant. But standards of care for animals have increased over time, so I can imagine hunting and eating meat being banned someday.

Do requirements for humane treatment compromise the property rights that provide the basis for our economy? As a free-market economist, I normally defend peoples’ economic freedom to use their property as they wish. Shouldn’t economic freedom include the freedom to organize dog fights?

Perhaps I am rationalizing, but I do not believe so. Property rights are ultimately rights to use things we own in certain ways. Ownership of animals may entail fewer rights than ownership of, say, furniture. Parents have more limited decision rights for their children than for themselves and can lose parental rights for abuse or neglect. Since standards of humane treatment can be inconsistent, we may decide that killing pigs or cattle but not dogs or horses for food is OK.

Would the banning of meat decimate agriculture? The impacts would be significant; the U.S. has over 90 million cattle, 70 million hogs and 230,000 poultry farms. The 2.3 million Americans working in agriculture will likely continue to do so, probably growing crops instead of raising animals. We have already seen a more radical transformation, however, as 80% of Americans worked in agriculture in 1800.

Banning meat would cause ranchers losses on the poultry and livestock they owned. However, meat is unlikely to be banned until many more Americans first become vegetarians. Fewer meat-eaters would reduce livestock populations and prices, reducing the losses from an eventual ban.

Animals, though, may not benefit from vegetarianism. The vast majority of America’s 70 million hogs are alive today because they are being raised for market. Most farm animals would not exist if we did not eat meat.

Is it better for an animal never to be born than born and raised to be eaten? Population ethics wrestles with a version of this question. China’s one child policy controlled population growth, but millions of children were never born. Does a higher quality of life for those lucky enough to be born offset the lives that never were?

Humanity is arguably making moral progress: slavery has been abolished, war is becoming rarer and we insist on humane treatment of animals. Ownership, limited by norms of humane treatment, leads humans to care for animals. Evolving standards of humane treatment need never cause economic calamity.

Daniel Sutter is the Charles G. Koch Professor of Economics with the Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy at Troy University and host of Econversations on TrojanVision. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Troy University.

2 hours ago

AIDT promotes Allen to high-level communications position

MONTGOMERY, Alabama – AIDT announced today that Jacqueline Allen has been promoted to assistant director of communications and external affairs at Alabama’s premier workforce development agency.Allen has over 30 years of experience in communications and marketing, with nearly 20 years of that experience at AIDT. Her new responsibilities include overseeing the Communications, Marketing & Research, and Training Development departments, as well as the agency’s newest department dedicated to recruiting candidates for AIDT training opportunities.

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Since joining AIDT in 2001, Allen has initiated changes in digital advertising, successfully executed AIDT branding campaigns and K-12 outreach efforts, managed AIDT’s involvement in developing the AlabamaWorks program and worked with officials in launching the Made in Alabama branding campaign for the Alabama Department of Commerce.

More recently, she has led the transformation into digital, e-learning and virtual reality training for AIDT through the Communications Department.

“Since joining AIDT, Jacquie has proven over and over again how valuable she is to AIDT,” said Ed Castile, deputy secretary of commerce and director of AIDT. “Her insight and her dedication to Alabama’s citizens is one of the reasons AIDT has remained at the top of its game.”

AIDT is part of the Workforce Development Division at the Alabama Department of Commerce. AIDT was founded in 1971 and is considered one of the nation’s top workforce development agencies.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

4 hours ago

Rep. Byrne rips Dems for values at Mobile County stop — ‘They don’t believe in God’

GRAND BAY — At a campaign event during a swing through his home congressional district on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) seemed to be taking a more aggressive tack in his quest to become Alabama’s next U.S. Senator.

With only 45 days left until Republicans head to the polls to select who they prefer to face Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) in the general election, Byrne addressed the Grand Farms Subdivision Action Group’s “INFORMED and INVOLVED Candidates Forum” at a venue in south Mobile County, just a stone’s throw from the Alabama-Mississippi state line.

Before an audience of more than 50 or so, Byrne honed in on values as a line of attack against Democrats, declaring them not to believe in God and as seeking to replace God with government.

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“This attack on President Trump is an attack on you and me,” he said. “Let’s make that clear. They don’t believe what you and I believe. It’s a fundamental breakdown in values. Policies are one thing. It’s the values that are at issue here. They don’t believe in God. That is at the root of the founding of the United States of America. They want to take God out of our life. They don’t want you and I to freely exercise our religion. We have to be willing to fight back against that. They don’t believe what the Constitution says what it says and nothing else. They keep adding things to it.”

“The Second Amendment says what it says what it says what it says, right? You have the right to bear arms, period, right? They want to take that right away from us. We have to fight against that. They want to take our right to freely exercise our religion in our everyday life. They want to say you can do whatever you want to in that church building over there. But when you walk outside of it, you can’t act out your faith. We have to stand up and fight against that. They have crazy ideas about what the federal government should do. When you take God out of the center of everything, you put government in the center of everything.”

Byrne cited Democrats’ push for the Green New Deal and Medicare for All as evidence of how an effort by the Democratic Party to put government at the center of everything.

He also took time to get a shot in at Jones, his general election opponent should he win the Republican senatorial nomination, and another in former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, one of his opponents in the March 3 GOP senatorial primary.

“I look at our United States Senator who is up this year in Doug Jones,” Byrne said. “He does not believe what you and I believe and is sure not going to fight for it. I want a senator who will go up to Washington believing what you and I believe, understanding the issues and will fight for them, who will wake up every day saying I’m the Senator from and for the state of Alabama. I didn’t just show up here yesterday. My family has been here for six generations. I didn’t move here from Florida three months ago, get a driver’s license and say, ‘I want to be your senator.’ We need people who understand who we are, who care about who we are and will fight for the stuff we believe in. I’m that fighter.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

4 hours ago

75-million-year-old sea turtle fossil in Alabama a key discovery

Paleontologists in Alabama have discovered a new genus and species of fossil turtle that may fill an important evolutionary gap.

Scientists named the animal Asmodochelys parhami for Asmodeus, a deity that, according to Islamic lore, was entombed in stone at the bottom of the sea, and parhami in honor of James Parham, former curator of paleontology at the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

According to the UAB study, Asmodochelys parhami swam the oceans about 75 million years ago and may have been one of the most recent common ancestors of modern sea turtles.

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“The origin story of sea turtles is one of the great unsolved mysteries in evolutionary biology,” said Drew Gentry, a College of Arts and Sciences Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and lead author of the study. “There is a great deal of evidence indicating that turtles may have evolved to live in the ocean several times over the past 150 million years. The trick is determining which of those species are actually the direct ancestors of the species we see today.”

MORE: Grad student uncovers Alabama fossils likely from oldest ancestor of modern sea turtles

To determine how A. parhami is related to present-day sea turtles, scientists performed a phylogenetic analysis. It is a method that compares the features of many different species of turtle to figure out how closely or distantly related those species may be. The analysis results in a phylogenetic tree, or genealogy, of sea turtles.

The UAB study found A. parhami is one of the youngest species to fall just outside of the group containing every species of modern sea turtle. This makes A. parhami of particular interest in the study of the sea turtle origins.

“Although it’s tempting to say ‘problem solved’ when we recover such a well-resolved tree, this is only one hypothesis in a long line of suggested sea turtle genealogies,” Gentry said. “Right now, there are several distinct trees proposed by different groups of scientists that are the front-runners in the race to solve sea turtle evolution, each with its own unique arrangement of fossil and modern species. Determining which tree most accurately represents the evolutionary history of these animals can be challenging, to say the least.”

In an effort to test the accuracy of each tree, Gentry and his colleagues examined the  proposed sea turtle genealogies and which most accurately fits the fossil record. That is to say, if the genealogy indicates that a certain species evolved first, does that species actually show up first in the fossil record?

Still lots to learn about ancient sea turtle unearthed in Alabama

Surprisingly, Gentry discovered that, although his proposed genealogy matched up relatively well with the fossil record, it was not the best fit. “Actually, a phylogeny proposed more than a decade ago matched nearly perfectly with the fossil record,” Gentry said. “The problem with that analysis was that it didn’t include nearly as many species as subsequent analyses, which may have influenced the results.”

Despite scientists around the world working for more than a century on sea turtle evolution, Gentry thinks there is still much to be learned.

“New methods for testing how fossil species are related to modern species are constantly being developed. Also, discoveries of new fossils have the potential to radically change our understanding of how certain features and species evolved in the history of life on our planet,” Gentry said. “Our study is just another piece of evidence in an ongoing mystery that shows no sign of being solved any time soon.”

The study, titled “Asmodochelys parhami, a new fossil sea turtle from the Campanian Demopolis Chalk and the stratigraphic congruence of competing marine turtle phylogenies,” was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

APSO volunteers answer call to serve in celebration of MLK Day

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Those words expressed by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957 in Montgomery, Alabama, find resonance across the nation as people celebrate his legacy through the MLK Day of Service. Indeed, thousands across the country and Alabama on Jan. 20 will answer King’s call to action.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many Alabama Power employees will answer the call by helping in projects that strengthen their communities. Volunteers from several chapters of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) will work throughout the state.

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Eastern Division

  • In an event that has become an Eastern APSO tradition, volunteers will prepare plates and serve food at the Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast in Talladega. The event starts at 8 a.m. in the Family Life Center at the Greater Ebenezer Baptist Church. Eastern Division Vice President Terry Smiley will be the keynote speaker.
  • Volunteers will serve Calhoun County residents at the annual MLK Breakfast at 9 a.m. at the Anniston City Meeting Center.

Gaston

The Gaston Chapter will celebrate King’s life and legacy by cleaning the town of Wilsonville from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Meeting at 8 a.m. at the town pavilion, members will pick up trash along Shelby County Road 103, Hebb Road and Highway 25.

Magic City

  • Magic City APSO members will join Friends of Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover to clean up and remove invasive plants along walking trails from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Members will prepare and serve lunch to about 60 families at the Ronald McDonald House in Birmingham from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on MLK Day. The members will split into teams, cleaning the kitchen pantry, cabinets and drawers, refrigerator, playground and around the building’s exterior. A team will disinfect the toddler area and toys, as well. To prepare for the event, a team will spend time Saturday, Jan. 18, buying food, paper plates, cups and utensils.
  • Volunteers will work from 8 a.m. to noon at the downtown YWCA, cleaning and refreshing the lobby and second-floor chapel. They will perform heavy-duty cleaning, such as sprucing up the chapel, baseboards and stairwells. If the weather permits, members will clean the first-floor interior windows and exterior windows.

Miller

Miller APSO members will work at Cordova Health & Rehabilitation, a long-term care and rehabilitation center, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. as part of a beautification project. Volunteers will clean the facility’s courtyard, and several Miller APSO members will pressure-wash, perform landscaping and repair the gazebo.

Mobile Division

Mobile APSO volunteers will join together for Keep Mobile Beautiful’s communitywide partnership for the MLK Day of Service. The project will benefit the Strickland Youth Center, which assists troubled teens. Members will plant trees, some of which were funded by the Alabama Power Foundation’s Good Roots Grants project to improve the quality of the environment in communities, towns and cities across Alabama.

Southeast Division

Members will take part in the Eufaula Barbour County Chamber’s Day of Service from 8 a.m. to noon. Volunteers from other groups will help in serving the Boys & Girls Club of Lake Eufaula, Barbour County Humane Society, Fairview Cemetery, Jewish Cemetery and more.

Southern Division

In what has become an annual project, Southern APSO volunteers will assist at the Davis Theatre for the Performing Arts at Troy University. Volunteers will help seat guests attending the MLK Celebration at the 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. shows.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)